The House of Councilors enacted a law Friday to allow manpower agencies to send workers to manufacturers for assembly work, a move that labor unions fear may result in fewer regular employees.

The amended Labor Dispatch Law, passed in a plenary session, will be enforced after the government draws up implementation guidelines by March, officials said.

The law will enable workers dispatched by manpower agencies to work on factory assembly lines for up to one year.

Starting three years after the law takes effect, such workers can be employed on assembly lines for up to three years.

The measure reflects a deregulatory drive by the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. It is designed to improve the stagnant labor market by easing rules on employment.

But labor unions at manufacturers are concerned about regular workers losing their jobs.

Currently, personnel agencies are prohibited from sending workers for security, port, medical and construction jobs, as well as for assembly work.

Under the revised law, professional workers sent by manpower agencies, including secretaries and interpreters, will be able to work on a temporary basis without specifying the length of service.

At present, such workers are barred from working for more than three years.

Temporary workers sent for retail and other sales jobs are currently allowed to work for up to one year. Under the new law, the limit will be extended to three years.

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